Saturday, April 17, 2010

PB Writers and Agent Angst

Sometimes we do things that don't make much business sense. Sometimes business exists despite this. Or, perhaps, it exists in part because there are those who dare to buck what the pros say.

Picture book writers often operate, and even flourish, using practices that seem at odds with the market, such as ignoring trends and working without an agent. Why? Passion is the most obvious reason. But there are other practical reasons for not seeking the services of an agent. First, so few take on new PBs writers. Second, most that do, won't rep the whole body of a PB writer's work, opting to push books that they have a strong connection with themselves. Third, I've heard many writers complain that agents try to drive them into writing only on certain topics. Some PB writers don't operate well under such constraints - or won't.

Those are only a few of the reasons.

To get a sense for the firestorm Caren Johnson Agency's Elana Roth's Thursday post about the relationship between agents and PB writers has caused (which I responded to yesterday here), check out this thread at Verla Kay's Children's Writers and Illustrators Discussion Boards.


  1. I have to admit, I've been curious about writing a PB because I thought it would be "easy." But after some research, I see the extensive amount of work that goes into a quality picture book. You not only have to capture a child's attention (which is getting WAY more difficult to do nowadays), but you need to make sure to keep your ideas fresh and original. And with the overall lack of support for PB writers, I'm even starting to think that it's one of the most difficult fields to breakthrough in.

  2. Pam, without a doubt, PB writers have greater obstacles to surmount to get published: a retracting market, agent resistance, closed houses. MG/YA appears to be among the hotter markets at the moment (relatively speaking). I wouldn't recommend a writer cut his/her teeth on PBs, and though I wouldn't discourage a writer who is compelled to write picture books, I would try to impress upon them the hurdles.